Executive Summary. and. Fifth Year Maintenance of Accreditation Report August 4, 2009

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1 ACCOUNTING PROGRAM Executive Summary and Fifth Year Maintenance of Accreditation Report August 4, 2009 Charles Sparks, Ph.D. Program Director Kevin Berry, Ph.D. Associate Dean Assistance Debbie Fristoe School Website

2 Tables of Contents Tables of Contents... i List of Tables... i Executive Summary... 1 I. Situational Analysis...1 II. Mission Statement... 7 III. Strategic Management Planning Process... 8 IV. Assessment Tools and Procedures V. Financial Strategies VI. Financial Strategies VI. New Degree Programs VII. Tables Appendix A. Comprehensive Exam Covering AIS/Auditing/Cost Appendix B. Ethics Test List of Tables Table 1. Accounting Degrees Awarded & Credit Hours Generated... 3 Table 2. Learning Goals and Objectives Table 3. Assessment of Auditing/AIS/Cost Table 4. Assessment of Ethical Awareness Table 5. Accounting Assurance of Learning - Plan for the Academic year Table 6. Accounting Assurance of Learning -Five Year Plan Table 7. Accounting Program Expenditures AY09 (excluding private donations) Table 8. AACSB Table 2-1. Summary of Intellectual Contributions ( ) Table 9. AACSB Table 2-2: Summary of Peer Reviewed Journals and Number of Publications in Each Journal ( ) Table 10. AACSB Table 9-1: Summary of Member Sufficiency in Discipline and School 2009 (Classes by Program) Table 11. AACSB Table 10-1: Summary of Faculty Qualifications, Intellectual Contributions and Professional Responsibilities (RE: Standards 2 & 10) Table 12. AACSB Table Calculations Relative to Deployment of Qualified Faculty (RE: Standard 10) i

3 List of Figures Figure 1. DAIS Strategic Planning Model... 9 Figure 2. Learning Goals, Assessment and Results ii

4 Executive Summary The Department of Accounting & Information Systems (DAIS) is the flagship accountancy program in the State of Alaska. It is the only program with a strong research mission and separate AACSB accreditation. The Department distinguished itself in the midseventies and eighties as the State s top accountancy program and went on to become one of the first accounting programs nationally to earn the coveted separate accounting accreditation from the AACSB in Since the late 1990s DAIS is one of the few accounting programs nationally that only offers a BBA in accounting. The past five years have been pivotal for DAIS due to declining enrollments and several leadership changes in the School of Management. These events, combined with the program being put on continuing review during the last accreditation cycle, has challenged the program s faculty. In particular, after a number of false starts at implementing our Assurance of Learning process (AOL), AY marked a turning point for the program with the development of operational objectives, identification of clear learning goals and the execution of assessment instruments. These have resulted in several changes to our curriculum. Having finally closed the loop with respect to AOL we are looking forward to continuing our process during AY Our primary strengths are our students. Our graduates are highly sought after by regional CPA firms and thus enjoy a very high professional placement rate. Our student organization Great Alaskan Accounting People (GAAP) has been actively contributing to our program s learning experience. The organization is one of the most recognized on campus for leadership, academic success and service. Our advisory board has been active with semi-annual meetings. They assisted substantially during our strategic planning process going through several iterations over the past three years. During AY we revised our mission, objectives and Academically Qualified (AQ)/Professionally Qualified (PQ) standards. Under our new mission-driven standards all of our faculty are considered AQ with one exception and that individual is considered PQ. Mission DAIS is a professional accountancy program whose activities are driven by our mission and objectives. Accordingly, our mission is to prepare undergraduate accounting students primarily for entry-level positions in Alaska-based public accounting firms and governmental entities and to provide a solid foundation for their subsequent careers as business professionals. DAIS s objectives are: 1. Foster an understanding of the technical bodies of accounting knowledge while developing the analytical, communication and research skills of our students. 2. Foster an awareness of professionalism, multiculturalism and ethical conduct through a strong collegial and supportive environment in an atmosphere of free and open inquiry. 1

5 3. Conduct primarily applied and pedagogical research that advances accounting and business knowledge. 4. Support the accounting profession and business community in Alaska through collaborative efforts directed toward the maintenance and improvement of high-quality accounting competencies and ethical awareness among practicing public, private and governmental accounting professionals. The current mission and objectives were developed iteratively by DAIS faculty, our advisory board and students. Following our last AACSB maintenance visit, in the Spring 2008 semester, faculty began work on revising our program s mission and objectives. It was a comprehensive process that resulted in an improved mission and provides a sharper focus for faculty and our various stakeholders. Effective Practices Like many schools DAIS has struggled with the challenges posed by a dynamic environment. A number of activities have been successful while others have not yielded similar returns. In the sections below we highlight both our successful practices and areas that need improvement. Active Student Organization-GAAP. We enjoy an active student accounting organization. GAAP has consistently produced outstanding leadership and promoted scholarship among our students. It provides many intangible benefits for our program including professional development, community outreach and networking. Engaged Professional Community. We are fortunate to have a strong and supportive professional community. Through membership on our advisory board and other interactions DAIS benefits substantially from this resource. It is through the generosity of this group that the program has benefited through numerous socials, office visits and campus speakers. These activities extend learning outside of the classroom and help to instill professional values and attitudes in our graduates. We plan to reciprocate these contributions through increased outreach and service activities over the coming years. Quality Students. Our program has attracted and continues to attract some of the best and brightest students. This is clearly evidenced by the students academic performance and high placement rates upon graduation. We look forward to the challenges of growing our program by attracting a greater number of these highly capable and talented students. Faculty. Our faculty continues to be one of our greatest strengths. Although we have had significant attrition over the past five years we have been successful at attracting and retaining a strong core of faculty committed to making our program strong and sustainable. Given our relatively isolated location it is noteworthy that we have faculty who enjoy the challenges of living in Alaska and feel motivated by their ability to make a difference in a small program. 2

6 Practices in Need of Improvement Assurance of Learning (AOL). Having just closed the loop on our assessment process this past academic year we face the challenge of continuing to refine our process and implement changes to our curriculum. We recognize that this will not be easy but it is one of our top priorities. Student Enrollments. It is crucial for our program to continue the recent trend of increasing enrollments. Our program will not be viable if we fail to accomplish this goal. The School of Management has developed and implemented an enrollment management plan. DAIS intents to augment this plan with outreach activities to the local high schools and other promotional activities. Faculty Development. We recognize that the dynamic nature of the professional community demands increased interactions and professional development activities by our faculty in order to retain excellence in teaching and research. These activities are costly in terms of time and financial resources. We must find resources to support these activities through budgetary increments and private contributions. Summary of Achievements DAIS has faced many challenges since the last AACSB maintenance visit. Throughout this period faculty worked hard to identify and remedy deficiencies. We ve largely been successful and can claim many successes including implementation of an operational assurance of learning process, a major revision in our mission and objectives, recruitment of new faculty and recent increases in enrollments. 3

7 Fifth Year Maintenance of Accreditation Report I. Situational Analysis UAF is considered the flagship campus of the University of Alaska system. It is the primary research campus and the only doctorate-granting institute in the UA system. UAF attracts nearly 10,000 students from Alaska, the Lower 48 and approximately 52 foreign countries. On the main campus of UAF there are eight schools including the School of Management (SOM) and colleges that offer 195 degrees in 122 disciplines. There are also seven research institutes and centers with total research expenditures that exceeded $100 million in AY08. In 1959, SOM expanded its degree offerings to include majors in accounting, business education, management, marketing and secretarial science. SOM was formed as one of five professional schools at UAF in The Department of Accounting was created and flourished during mid 1970s as the demand for accountants increased. In 1988 SOM received the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation for its graduate and undergraduate business programs and also received separate accreditation for its Accounting Program. Our program is currently the only accounting program with separate AACSB accreditation in the State of Alaska. In the early 1990s the Department of Accounting became known as the Department of Accounting & Information Systems (DAIS) to reflect the increasing importance of information technology and systems in accounting and business. Several additional faculty members in information systems were hired to support this increased emphasis. Due to a number of factors student enrollments were either stagnant or declined throughout the late 1990s and into Faculty retention was also an issue during this time given departmental budget constraints and the strong national demand for academically qualified faculty. During this time the department shrunk both in terms of faculty and students. In the spring of 2003 the program underwent an administrative restructuring consistent with changes in the School of Management. Chief among these changes was a move from faculty elected department chairs to a program director appointed annually by the dean. The transition to this administrative structure took several years but is now complete. DAIS principally serves students from the Fairbanks area, surrounding smaller communities in Alaska s interior as well as remote communities in the western and northern regions of Alaska. DAIS has consistently been recognized within UAF, Alaska s professional community and the State of Alaska as a quality provider of undergraduates for the accounting profession. The program attracts top students from within SOM and UAF s resident student population. This reputation for quality is reflected by the program s strong placement of its graduates. The majority of our graduates are recruited by the large international accounting firms with offices in Alaska and the northwest US, as well as regional and local CPA firms. Historically, all of our graduates have been placed prior to graduation or immediately thereafter. DAIS benefits from an active student accounting organization, the Great Alaskan Accounting People (GAAP). In the early 1980s GAAP was founded by faculty and students to 1

8 provide accounting students a bridge between the academic environment and the profession. GAAP provides students with leadership opportunities, networking and exposure to professional careers and opportunities. The organization is one of the most recognized on campus having won multiple awards for its leadership, academic achievement and community service. Many of our students are the first generation to attend college and GAAP provides a forum for students to gain insights into the expectations regarding professional attitudes and conduct. These activities include interviewing workshops, office visits and several socials where current students interact with alumni at various stages of their careers. DAIS s advisory board was reorganized in 2008 and currently consists of twelve members representing a cross-section of the professional community. Several members are alumnus. Members, currently employed in professional, private and governmental practice, are appointed to fixed renewable terms in order to provide a balanced perspective on issues affecting the accounting profession locally, regionally and nationally. The board meets semi-annually to assist DAIS with the development and execution of our strategic mission and objectives. During AY we created a website to facilitate board member communications outside of these biannual meetings. At the end of AY 08 DAIS had six academically qualified and one professionally qualified faculty members. Our Professionally Qualified (PQ) member is a retired emeriti professor who now works full-time in accounting & audit services for a local CPA firm. Application of the current Academically Qualified (AQ) criteria resulted in all tenure-track faculty members being considered AQ throughout the five year review of this report. The program added a full-time PQ member during the summer of Academic Program and Teaching UAF s Accounting Program is one the few universities nationally with separate accounting accreditation that offers only a baccalaureate level program of study. The program is currently residential only and oriented towards preparing undergraduate students for entry-level positions in Alaskan-based public accounting firms and governmental entities. While most graduates initially enter public accounting many move to the governmental sector following completion of the CPA requirements. Entrance into the public accounting profession in Alaska is unique because of its education and work requirements. Unlike most 150 credit hour jurisdictions, the State of Alaska allows students to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a baccalaureate degree in any field of study and an accounting concentration (15 semester hours or equivalent (1 year of professional experience). As a result DAIS has many students pursuing the Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting as well as students that already have an undergraduate degree and have returned only to study accounting in order to become eligible for the CPA. Also many SOM Masters in Business Administration (MBA) candidates complete an accounting core in order to be CPA eligible and competitive in the job market. As such, the Accounting Program is able to offer a rigorous curriculum for its undergraduate BBA with a major in Accounting, as well as introductory and foundation accounting courses for all BBA majors and other students throughout the university. In addition, the Accounting Program supports the MBA program by offering a required foundation course 2

9 and other electives when demand warrants. Future plans include the expansion of our courses and our degree via real-time video distance education initially to the UA Mat-Su Valley campus (40 miles north of Anchorage) where historically we have attracted top students into our oncampus programs. Table 1 presents the number of accounting degrees awarded and the number of accounting credit hours generated for the last five academic years. Since the last accreditation cycle the program has slightly increased the number of degrees awarded (Table 1.) Table 1. Accounting Degrees Awarded & Credit Hours Generated. Academic Year Number of Degrees Awarded Credit hours generated The number of graduates earning degrees has been as high as 28 in the early 1990s with the 20- year average being Low enrollments recently have been a concern to both faculty and administration. The decline was likely due to a number of factors including the expansion of the accounting and business programs at UAA, the development of distance business programs at UAS and a strong regional economy. DAIS has worked to increase the number of students and this has resulted in the number of credit hours generated in being the largest in the last five years with over thirty-five students completing Intermediate II in the Spring 2009 semester. It is expected that the number of graduates in the academic year will exceed the five-year high of 17 in Many factors are likely responsible for the recent increase in enrollments but one possibility is the decision to offer condensed seven-week courses for many of the junior-level core courses. This change allows students to enter the program in either the Fall or Spring term. In the past, students could only start the intermediate accounting sequence in the Fall term and this represented a significant progression challenge for our students. If faculty resources allow, it is anticipated that the program will begin to offer both Intermediate I and II each semester, in an attempt to ease this constraint and increase the number of majors. Both SOM and the Accounting Program have also been gathering student surveys to assess the desirability and feasibility of expansion of our seven-week courses. The results of this study will be presented to the DAIS faculty and advisory board during AY as a basis for expansion of this course delivery format. To ensure that the teaching activities support both SOM s and DAIS s mission, an Assurance of Learning (AOL) process is maintained. Currently the Accounting Program has four learning goals: 1) Accounting graduates possess technical accounting; 2) Accounting graduates communicate effectively both orally and in writing; 3) Accounting graduates function professionally in a business environment; and 4) Accounting graduates possess knowledge of all business disciplines within the BBA degree. At the core of this process are program level teaching and learning goals. These goals were developed by DAIS faculty in consultation with our advisory board. They reflect past and current authoritative pronouncements of professional, academic and accrediting bodies. 3

10 Faculty and Research Given the Accounting Program s focus on undergraduate education and its revised mission, the program strives to maintain a faculty with the following characteristics: 1) conduct primarily applied and pedagogical research that advances accounting and business knowledge; 2) have a portfolio of relevant practical experience such that the faculty as a whole will have the equivalent of two members with significant relevant practical experience over the previous five years; and 3) have at least four faculty members certified and active or working towards a certification in accounting at any given time. During the academic year, including the Associate Dean, the Accounting Program employed seven participating faculty members with six being AQ with active research agendas and one was PQ with current professional employment. Four faculty members hold current certifications and two held inactive certifications. During the summer of 2009 the program experienced two vacancies: Professor Zhao resigned and Professor Wichmann retired. Consistent with our revised mission and in consultation with the Dean, DAIS chose to fill one of these positions with a PQ person. It is anticipated that the remaining vacancy will be filled with an AQ person during AY During the period 2004 to 2008 the Accounting Faculty published thirty journal articles with no individual publishing fewer than three articles. Consistent with our mission these articles were published in professional and pedagogical journals. Several noteworthy events that reflect our recruitment of top junior faculty: Professor Zhao published in the Accounting Review and Professor Sparks received the AAA s Auditing Section s 2007 Notable Contribution award for a paper he published in In addition, because accounting faculty members can teach in several different areas, the Accounting Program has started to actively use professional development opportunities to assist faculty members in staying current in their teaching areas. For example, Professor Abramowicz recently attended the AICPA s national meeting in Washington D.C. to gain insights about recent as well as anticipated changes in the tax laws. DAIS is also encouraging and supporting faculty to engage in professional internships and other professional activities in order to update their knowledge of specific accounting topics and thus their teaching effectiveness. Community Support and Professional Interactions The Accounting Program attracts a diverse array of interactions among practicing professionals who invest time and effort in the program s educational efforts. Examples of professional interactions include hosted forums where recent alumni and other accounting professionals meet with students and faculty to share their experiences and insights. These activities develop and strengthen the program s relationship with our professional community and provide students with valuable career information and networking opportunities. Consistent with our revised mission the program will encourage and support the expansion of these activities including faculty memberships in professional groups like the State Society, cosponsoring of local CPE courses and community outreach and service. 4

11 Demographics and Diversity There were 181 Accounting majors in SOM for the time period of Fall semester 2004 to Spring semester The students were a mix of traditional and non-traditional students. Due to the proximity of two large military installations our program attracts a number of military personnel and their dependents. Many of these students transfer course work earned at other institutions. The ages of our students range from 19 to 62, with an average of 31.2 years and modes of 23 and 26 years. Alaskan students comprise the majority of accounting majors. Local high school graduates represent our biggest source of new accounting majors. Traditionally many of these college bound-students attended universities out-of-state. With increasing pressure on family budgets and the higher tuition cost many students are looking closer to home for their educational needs. We are increasing our visibility to these students through outreach efforts by faculty and our advisory board. Our program has benefited from several international-exchange student initiatives at UAF. We have recently seen an increase in Chinese students interested in accounting studies and we expect this trend to continue. However, our biggest potential source of new students/majors will be from the rural areas of Alaska. These students often start at UAF s College of Rural and Community Development and then decide to pursue a BBA degree. Attracting these students will provide many benefits to our program including increasing the representation of Alaska Natives in our program. Our program is well positioned to increase our enrollments through a number of venues. First, recruiting students from the rural areas of the State will increase our diversity. The regional and village native corporations created under the Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act (ANSCA) are becoming an economic powerhouse both within Alaska and nationally. They are very supportive of efforts to increase educational and professional opportunities for rural residents. Second, offering courses via video distance delivery to the Mat-Su Valley will allow us to increase enrollments and gain experience with distance-delivery pedagogy. Competitive Environment DAIS faces competition from both in-state and out-of-state institutions. Our program s reputation for high placement of graduates in CPA firms and the strong job market for accountants has been the primary driver of enrollments over the past decade. However, the decline in majors over the past five years has led many of the program s traditional recruiters to increasingly seek graduates from other universities. Our chief competitor, the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), has grown substantially over the recent decade. Their proximity to Alaska s business center and a population base that represents nearly 50% of the state s total has helped them build enrollments and secure additional state funding. Historically, UAA s accounting program has been traditionally viewed as a less rigorous program staffed predominantly by community college faculty. However, because of retirements, they have added Ph.D. faculty members who are research active. Combined with budget increments this has resulted with increased enrollments. The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) offers an online 5

12 BBA in accounting and is popular in many rural areas of Alaska. In the past DAIS would attract many of these accounting students to its residential program. We also compete with online universities, principal among these the University of Phoenix. Phoenix offers a Bachelor of Science in Business with an accounting concentration which consists of 18 credit hours. The university has a high degree of accessibility; students can sign into an online class at anytime to receive and complete assignments. Military personnel are drawn to the institution due to the varied nature of their duties. Wayland Baptist University is an institution specifically designed for military personnel. There are campuses at both Eielson Air Force Base, approximately 35 miles south of UAF, and on Fort Wainwright which is adjacent to Fairbanks. The B.B.A. in Accounting requires 42 general credit hours and 24 major credit hours. The yearly schedule is comprised of four 11- week semesters with mostly evening and Saturday classes which facilitates opportunities for those who have deployments or other assignments. DAIS primary strengths are: (1) our reputation for producing top CPA candidates; (2) active student organization, GAAP; (3) a high level of faculty-student interaction; and (4) good relations with the State s professional organizations. We plan to use these strengths to promote our program and continue increasing enrollments. Summary Looking forward the Accounting Program faces several significant challenges. First, continued growth of student enrollments is crucial to the long-term viability of the program. Without greater numbers of students the program may face immediate reductions in funding and less interest in graduates by regional employers. Second, reduced funding from the State at a time when there is increased needs for faculty development is forcing SOM to seek private donations to maintain the current level of funding for the program. Third, because recruiting academically qualified faculty is becoming extremely difficult due to the decline in the number of students graduating with Ph.D.s, replacing faculty members in our isolated location will be a continued challenge. Further, with the small number of faculty members, less formalized processes have been used successfully to manage our program. This can create problems when leadership changes occur. Also, operating within a union environment constrains our decisionmaking ability. Finally, classroom availability is increasingly constraining our ability to schedule classes at optimum times. The Accounting program has several strengths that can be exploited in the future to improve the quality of the program and ensure its success. First, the program has a strong tradition of co-curricular activity lead by our award winning student organization, the Great Alaska Accounting People (GAAP). Second, the program s graduates have an excellent placement rate with demand exceeding supply. Third, our high level of faculty-student interaction provides good support for students and high retention rates. The program has the ability to grow and with a new tuition model reap the rewards associated with increasing enrollments. Finally, the program has outstanding faculty that give the program the ability to 6

13 make quick, well supported decisions. This quality was evidenced this Spring when Professor Zhao announced his decision to leave. For programmatic needs it was felt that a PQ replacement was preferred. We successfully filled this position with Amy Cooper, a local CPA, who has strong ties to the professional community in Alaska. This addition will give the program a stronger focus on both students and the professional community. II. Mission Statement The Accounting Program revised and adopted a new mission in The mission and its objectives pertain to the Bachelors of Business Administration in Accounting. The mission statement and objectives are as follows: The Accounting Program serves its stakeholders through excellence in teaching, research and service. We strive to prepare undergraduate accounting students primarily for entr-y level positions in Alaska-based public accounting firms and governmental entities and to provide a solid foundation for their subsequent careers as business professionals. The four Objectives that flow from the mission are as follows: 1. Foster an understanding of the technical bodies of accounting knowledge while developing the analytical, communication and research skills of our students. 2. Foster an awareness of professionalism, multiculturalism and ethical conduct through a strong collegial and supportive environment in an atmosphere of free and open inquiry. 3. Conduct primarily applied and pedagogical research that advances accounting and business knowledge. 4. Support the accounting profession and business community in Alaska through collaborative efforts directed toward the maintenance and improvement of high-quality accounting competencies and ethical awareness among practicing public, private and governmental accounting professionals. Development of the Mission Statement Following the last accreditation cycle it became apparent to the Accounting Program that its mission needed to be revised so that it could be better used to govern the program. Beginning in March of 2008 the faculty met weekly to discuss the mission, objectives and learning goals. The faculty discussed the placement of students and that professional accounting careers in Alaska are predominantly available in small private businesses engaging in an economy fueled by resource development, governmental and tourism activities. In September 2008 the faculty approved the mission and sent it to the advisory board for final approval. 7

14 III. Strategic Management Planning Process Including the Associate Dean, the Accounting Program is composed of seven participating faculty members. As a result, most decision-making processes are handled by the faculty as a whole. This saves significant amounts of time, as it avoids an extra layer of approval process. Moreover, all faculty are aware of important issues and decisions that must be made as they unfold, allowing for spontaneous interaction and discussion in advance of a formal meeting to resolve or decide on a plan of action. In addition to issues raised by the faculty, we are also sensitive to the needs and concerns of our three major stakeholder groups, students, alumni and employers. Alumni and employers are represented in this process by the Accounting Program Advisory Board. Keeping abreast of student issues is facilitated by the existence of UAF s most-awarded student organization, the Great Alaskan Accounting People (GAAP). Constant formal and informal interaction with the officers and members allows for sharing of any significant concerns, as well as successes. In addition, many of the accounting faculty members regularly attend GAAP meetings, creating an environment where students get to know the faculty outside of the classroom and again, fostering easier sharing of concerns. Planning for the current strategic plan began in 2006 when all members of the Accounting Program Advisory Board were contacted to determine if they were still willing to serve. These individuals are from private industry, CPA firms and not-for-profit entities, both in Alaska and in the Lower 48. Knowing that time is valuable, only two meetings per year are normally proposed, but they are carefully planned and orchestrated to utilize the Board s experience and views on the issues facing the Program. DAIS has recently created a web-based site for informal board communications where members can raise issues and contribute to discussions about issues involving the accounting program. This move is seen as a way to advance member interactions and bridge the time gaps between regularly scheduled meetings. Meetings held on May 12, 2006 and October 27, 2006 focused primarily on elements of our strategic plan. After lengthy discussions among ourselves, significant input from our Advisory Board and consideration by the officers of GAAP, the original strategic plan was developed with nine strategic objectives. Following the strategic planning model in Figure 1, the strategic plan is revised annually. Currently the plan is comprised of the following seven strategic objectives: 1. Implement a long-term itemized plan for continuous curriculum development. 2. Increase the number of accounting majors. 3. Increase the number of accounting students taking a part of a professional exam (CPA, CMA or CIA) prior to or within three months of their graduation. 4. Maintain 90% (or higher) placement rate for accounting major graduates within six months of graduation. 8

15 5. Increase membership and involvement in GAAP. 6. Formalize various options for students to meet 150-hour requirement for certification. 7. Increase the number of accounting faculty as necessary to meet the needs of the Program. Stakeholders Strategic Objectives Stakeholders Action Plan Environmental Scanning Implementation Assessment Feedback Figure 1. DAIS Strategic Planning Model. Several recent environmental issues have arisen that are scheduled to go through the strategic planning process in the upcoming year. Recently, two faculty members have resigned. One to take a position elsewhere and one retired. Discussions with the faculty, the Dean and the advisory board chairman resulted in the decision to seek a PQ replacement for Professor Zhao s vacant position. The faculty will recommend that the other vacancy be filled with an AQ replacement. Likewise the program is in a transition to new leadership. Not only does the strategy have to be revised but it may be advantageous to formalize many program activities to enable a smoother leadership transition in the future. In addition, consideration must be given to 9

16 the eventual movement to international accounting standards and their potential impacts on professional practice in Alaska. Strategic Initiatives During the past year, in conjunction with our advisory board, DAIS identified the following initiatives for the coming year: 1. Maintain faculty positions within the program. Further, it was deemed desirable to seek an increase in faculty positions commensurate with continued increases in enrollments. 2. Support the program s enrollment management plan. Outreach activities to area high schools was identified as a priority to both build relationships with school counselors and teachers but also increase parent and student awareness of opportunities available at DAIS. 3. Continue to improve the quality and relevance of DAIS curriculum through ongoing review and assessment activities. 4. Support increased faculty professional interactions and professional development. This includes faculty involvement in various professional communities, both locally and regionally, in order to increase our program s visibility as well as to keep faculty current with respect to the profession. 5. Encourage and support faculty professional certifications. Highly Effective Practices GAAP Organization. Our student accounting organization has performed several essential functions for our program. First, it bridges the gap between the classroom and professional life. Second, it provides a vehicle to initiate interactions with the program s stakeholders. These interactions are not only between students but also include faculty and the professional community. Third, it provides a method to engage our alumni and other stakeholders to the benefit of current students. Finally, it provides leadership training, networking and develops professionalism for our students. Accounting Week. This annual event showcases the benefits of our program by concentrating a majority of the recruitment activities over a ten-day period. This event includes socials and other activities that allow students and faculty to meet representatives from regional CPA firms. It also serves as a recruiting tool for new majors because it emphasizes our program s strong placement of graduates. Program Placement. An excellent record of placement is the strongest endorsement a program can receive. It validates its quality in terms of curriculum and students. DAIS placement record is among the best on the UAF campus. Historically, we have placed a majority of our graduates in public accounting track careers and a significant portion of these with large international firms. 10

17 Faculty/Student Interaction. Our small size allows faculty a high degree of interaction with our students. This supports outstanding academic and career counseling that leads to higher retention rates and better graduates. Many alumni have stated that a key factor in their decision to choose accounting as their major was the strong commitment by faculty to students. These relationships continue beyond graduation and represent an intangible resource for the program that could be tapped in the future for fundraising and other benefits. Practices in Need of Improvement Enrollment Management. Our program is at pivotal point. To be considered a viable program, enrollments must increase over the next few years. Current faculty resources could easily support an additional twenty to thirty-percent increase in students. Stronger enrollments will strengthen our relationship with firms that recruit our graduates and help justify our resource allocations within the SOM. AOL. Like many other schools our assessment process had several false starts and went through a number of iterations. We feel that during the most recent cycle we finally got it and now have developed an operational process. Our assessment process will guide our program to better instructional quality and relevance. The immediate challenge is embedding into our curricula activities so that it is both integrated and seamless. Fund raising. External support will be necessary to maintain the quality of our program and enable us to fully implement our strategic objectives. Faculty development is a key part of our mission. Support for professional development activities will have to increasingly come from externally raised funds. Our remoteness makes these activities more costly. IV. Assessment Tools and Procedures In AY our assessment activities yielded tangible results. As discussed more fully below, from our revised objectives and learning goals we developed and administered several assessment instruments. These outcomes led to a number of substantive changes in our curricula thus closing our assessment loop. We found that student knowledge of the basic internal controls was weak. We also found that the ability to use Quickbooks was caused by a lack of the fundamental knowledge of financial accounting rather than their ability to use the program. Accordingly, we have made revisions to remove the coverage of Quickbooks from ACCT 262 (Accounting Concepts and Uses II) and to add coverage of the basic internal controls. For AY we will continue these activities and implement further program changes as necessary. DAIS has developed a comprehensive Assurance of Learning (AOL) assessment process to ensure that our activities effectively support the respective and complimentary missions of SOM and the accounting program. At the center of this process are the program-level learning goals for the undergraduate accounting program. These goals were developed by faculty during AY with significant input by both the professional and student advisory boards. They were 11

18 also highly influenced by the written pronouncements of professional, academic and accrediting bodies. DAIS has four learning goals: 1) Accounting graduates communicate effectively both orally and in writing; 2) Accounting graduates possess technical accounting knowledge; 3) Accounting graduates function professionally in a business environment; and 4) Accounting graduates possess knowledge of all business disciplines within the BBA degree. DAIS faculty members seek to ensure courses will be designed to effectively meet these goals and thus support the mission of our program. DAIS faculty members meet regularly to identify the appropriate courses in which program-level learning goals are to be covered and/or reinforced. In general, learning goals are assessed either in the course where the most intensive coverage occurs, or immediately following completion of the course. Assessment tools are employed to directly assess the effectiveness of learning activities that purport to meet program learning goals. Besides these direct assessment instruments additional measures of instructional effectiveness are employed. They include student satisfaction surveys (SOI), employer satisfaction surveys, alumni satisfaction surveys, recruiter satisfaction surveys, peer teaching evaluations and performance on ETS and CPA examinations. All of these measures become inputs for our continuous improvement process. Assurance of Learning This period served as our learning/incubation/experimentation period with the primary activities taking place during as we began implementing an initial AOL process and satisfied concerns of our accreditation team during the continuing review process. A major guiding force during that time was the input and guidance received from Dr. Michael Tearney, the consultant we brought on campus for two days. In addition, the previous director of the Accounting Program attended AACSB accreditation seminars. The plan, measurements to date and evaluation of the results and initial feedback were included in our final accreditation report submitted to AACSB in October After receiving written and oral comments from the accreditation team, we determined that the following items fell short of expectations and would need to be revisited as part of our process of continuous improvement: 1. Our first goal had been Personalized Education The BBA degree in Accounting will be responsive to the distinct goals, experiences and talents of our diverse student body. Given our small class sizes and the fact that virtually all classes are taught by full-time AQ or PQ faculty, we modeled this goal after a similar one in one of the recommended AOL plans the consultant shared with us. However, while it may be a distinctive element of our program, we determined that it was not an appropriate goal and dropped it from our AOL plan. 2. Our second goal (now the first goal in the revised plan), Competent Communication Skills: Accounting graduates will be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing. This is a goal that is common to many AOL plans. However, after significant 12

19 discussion about these skills during much of 2008 and into 2009, we came to the conclusion that due to the existence of accounting professions in which many of our graduates operate, our students need two very distinct types of skills (both oral and written): technical-internal where they have to present ideas and alternatives effectively based on substantial authoritative support using precise technical language, and technical-external where the identification of the intended audience and the appropriate level of technical depth is essential for effective communication. 3. Our third goal (now the second goal), Technical Proficiency: Accounting graduates will possess technical accounting knowledge had contained an objective that our graduates be proficient in the use of Quickbooks. While this was an uncommon requirement for an accounting degree, it had long been a distinctive element of the UAF accounting BBA because many of our students took employment at local CPA firms where most of their clients used Quickbooks and those employers had expressed preference for new hires with that skill. However, after re-examination by the faculty, along with input from our Advisory Board during Fall 2008, it was determined that many employers did not require this skill and those that did could either require it as a condition of employment or easily provide it during the first several weeks of employment. What was determined to be important was making students aware of generic types of bookkeeping programs, including making them aware of both strengths and shortcomings. Additionally, we attempted to measure and evaluate technical knowledge in accounting with prior CPA-exam questions being embedded in mid-term examinations. However, this was problematic since we failed to initially identify fundamental concepts, thus there was no overriding guidance for question selection and therefore no real measurement of technical proficiency. As a result, the faculty spent considerable time during 2008 identifying core competencies that we desired our graduates to possess and then how to best assess them. Ultimately, we created two required exit exams to be administered near the end of their accounting program, one focusing on Intermediate/Tax/ Governmental and NFP Accounting and one on AIS/Auditing/Cost Accounting. 4. The fourth (now the third) goal, Professionalism: Accounting graduates will be equipped to function professionally in a business environment. This goal contains the objective of students having the ability to identify ethical issues as well as the awareness of professional expectations and attitudes. To assess the ethical objective we had been using a case in a business core course which was outside the control of the accounting program. Due to the lack of control, we were unable to obtain reliable measurements on a timely basis. We therefore identified a suitable test that we could administer in our auditing course and implemented this beginning in Fall Assurance of Learning The previous section presented the origination and implementation of our initial AOL plan as well as a brief description of the subsequent changes to the plan. This section elaborates 13

20 on our recent and planned activities including the motivations behind them. Input came from various sources: Our own dissatisfaction with previous AOL outcomes. Input from our previous accreditation team. Attendance at the AACSB-sponsored Maintenance of Accounting Accreditation. Advice from Dr. Douglas Eider, who served as a consultant to SOM and DAIS during 2008 to assist the School and Accounting Program in improving our AOL process. With experience a better understanding of AOL has been gained. Like SOM, DAIS utilizes the following process to continuously improve the AOL plan (see Figure 2). Set/Review Learning Goals Propose Changes Conduct Assessments Evaluate Results Figure 2. Learning Goals, Assessment and Results. As discussed in the previous section, we made several changes to our initial AOL plan. The first major change was the reconsideration, and ultimate removal, of our first learning goal, Personalized Education. Although modeled after another similar school whose plan was one put forth by the AACSB as a representative example of a well-thought-out plan, after discussions with our accreditation team and better understanding the AOL process, we realized that this was not a measureable goal since 1) it is really an input not an output and 2) there was no feasible way to identify any real measureable outputs from it in the sense of what our students will be able to do because of it. While it remains a marketable characteristic of our BBA degree, we were unable to revise it into an appropriate learning goal so it was eliminated as one of our learning goals during our Winter/Spring 2008 faculty meetings. As part of our previous accreditation report, we included assessment results for our (then) second learning goal, Communication Skills. Assessment of oral communication skills had involved having the faculty member teaching the course conduct the assessment and then we progressed to having an outside team of three faculty members come in and observe the presentations, using a rubric initially developed by the MBA Committee and slightly modified for use with undergraduate students. For writing skills, an assessment rubric was utilized in evaluating a research paper assignment in Auditing. Assessment results of oral communication skills indicated satisfactory results for most students except that there was insufficient eye contact with the audience. Overall, written communication skills were also satisfactory. However, in reviewing the results, we determined that there was insufficient evaluation of both the content and the desired level of technical depth given the audience. The faculty members agreed that for 1) oral communication, it is of primary importance that the speaker be able to correctly identify the audience to which the presentation is directed and then present the material 14

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